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ASSOCIATION OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION INSPECTORS, ADVISERS AND CONSULTANTS !

SUMMER 2013

AREIAC Newsletter From the Chair... Joy Schmack

Contents

Reflecting on the last year, it has been one of many projects and action groups all with the sole focus of the promotion of effective Religious Education. Despite the continual changing circumstances of members the Association of RE Inspectors, Advisers and Consultants has continued to be a vibrant organisation and actively involved in national developments.

From the Chair

1

Conference Membership RE Quality Mark RE All Party Parliamentary Group

3 4 5

National developments During the last year Penny, Dilwyn and Phil have represented AREIAC on the RE Council (REC) which under the guidance of Chair, John Keast has worked tirelessly for the future of RE in the ever-changing national landscape.

5

RE Secondary School Survey 5 Report: Primary Teachers Under Prepared to Teach RE 6 Southwell & Nottingham Open Churches Project 8 Westhill Seminars REsilience website relaunch A visit to Poland Resource - RERoute Gove, the archbishop and RE

In his capacity as board member, Phil chairs the professional A youth voice for Hampshire development committee, which I also attend. Significant SACRE consideration has been given concerning the needs of teachers Conference 2013 regarding their continuing professional development in the Book Reviews changing educational context. A particular area of interest has Back Page been to identify the range of different opportunities that exist within schools and Higher Education and the ever increasing impact of on-line resources. The committee is currently working on responses to relevant issues raised within the APPG inquiry.

9 9 10 11 11 13 15 16 19

As part of the Professional RE Group (PREG – Chairs of the professional RE associations) I have continued to meet colleagues termly to discuss issues affecting consultants, advisers, teachers and the work of SACREs. I have also been part of the new Curriculum, Assessment and Qualifications committee (CAQC), which has operated as a steering group for the RE Review and met regularly over the past seven months. This has been a major and challenging task project managed by Dr Janet Orchard with AREIAC members being appointed to each of the task groups. As many of you will know, the REC has been instrumental in setting up an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Religious Education, which was launched on June 11th 2012. Its Chair is Stephen Lloyd, MP for Eastbourne and Willingdon, who put up the Early Day Motion on RE in the English Baccalaureate . The proposed aim for the group is to provide a medium through which MPs, Peers and other organisations with an interest in religious education can discuss the current provision for religious education in schools, academies, colleges and universities; to act as a forum for all who share common concerns in promoting the highest possible standards of religious education; to press for continuous improvement in religious education; to promote a clear, positive image and public understanding of religious education; and to advocate that every young person experiences a personally inspiring and academically rigorous education in religious and non-

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ASSOCIATION OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION INSPECTORS, ADVISERS AND CONSULTANTS !

SUMMER 2013

religious worldviews. The APPG conducted an extensive inquiry into the supply of and support for Religious Education Teachers. A large number of individuals and organisations were consulted along with calls for evidence at two parliamentary meetings in Westminster. I presented at the second call and am grateful to all the AREIAC members who submitted responses allowing me to formulate a report which reflected a national picture. As the final report ‘RE:The Truth Unmasked’ reflects Religious Education is often marginalised in schools with teachers undermined by the dismantling of frameworks and support structures. We await to see the ramifications of this important report.

AREIAC Business The Executive has continued to meet termly in Birmingham to address national and internal issues with representation from all the regions in England and Wales. As stated in last year’s newsletter John Ferguson has retired from his post and as such we have had no representation from Northern Ireland this year. The executive has worked with the REC and PREG challenging government developments and issues. As you will know from the press coverage and frequent emails in the autumn term there has been a particular focus with NASACRE to challenge the government’s position on circular 1/94 with regard to Collective Worship. National issues have at times overwhelmed the work of the executive this year and we have had to often respond at very short notice .With falling numbers we have now begun to address the changes AREIAC may need to make to remain viable. Particular discussions have taken place regarding the criteria of eligibility for AREIAC membership and ways of recruiting new members. The annual one day conference held in October was particularly successful and generated much debate .This autumn will see the first of our regional conferences led by the Tran-Pennine Group which will be an event open to all those in the RE Community. The AREIAC Executive have shown great commitment to their work and a considerable generosity of time and spirit. I wish to thank them for all the letters and emails they have drafted and re-drafted over the year to support the Executive’s decisions. This is in addition to their roles as regional reps. Their passion for this subject association and for RE and Collective Worship has never waned. Thanks to Dilwyn for all his support , John for his role as treasurer, Barbara who in between organising the APPG report has organised Executive and AGM matters, Christine as membership secretary ,Penny, Sue, Anita, Sue and Derek for their commitment and hard work at the Executive meetings and Mary for being willing to take on the task of organising conference. My particular thanks go to Jane for her continual support as Executive Assistant and editor of the newsletter. The positive feedback regarding the termly newsletter has been much appreciated -particularly the wide range of book reviews! A final thanks to all AREIAC members who have been so gracious and patient with my bombarding of e-mails at various times of the year. The year has been far busier than I could ever have imagined. There are many challenges ahead which will perhaps need us to consider new ways of working and thinking. The Executive work tirelessly for their members and we welcome suggestions through the Regional Representatives of any ways we can further represent our members views in the pursuit of high quality Religious Education and Collective Worship. It was good to see so many of you at conference and I hope you all have a well earned rest over the summer. or details about the conference please contact Joy Schmack on chair@areiac.org.uk

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ASSOCIATION OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION INSPECTORS, ADVISERS AND CONSULTANTS !

SUMMER 2013

A ONE DAY CONFERENCE OCT 15th, 2013

THE CURRICULUM POSITION OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION The next one day RE AREIAC conference will be held on October 15th in the Camponile Aston (Birmingham) and AREIAC will again open the conference to other RE organisations. We hope to invite speakers who were involved in the RE Review. The conference will consider implications for different constituencies (SACREs, ITE, teachers etc) and will cost under ÂŁ100. Details will be available soon

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ASSOCIATION OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION INSPECTORS, ADVISERS AND CONSULTANTS !

SUMMER 2013

AREIAC Membership For 2013 AREIAC finished with 125 members which is five fewer than last year. Of these 101 are full time with 24 retired or life members, only one more than last year! As with last year there is a continuing trend of downward figures in the LA category with a drop of 5. We now have the same number of independents as LA advisers for the first time. However, it should be noted that all these categories are approximate in that we no longer ask members to fill in a form each year on which they can chose the category which they feel best describes their position so there may be some movement between areas. The full breakdown, with last year’s figures for comparison, is as follows: Type of Member AST Diocesan Faith communities

2012

2013

3

3

26

26

2

2

HE HE/IND

3 1

2

Independents

39

39

LA

44

39

LA/Independent

2

1

Lecturer

5

2

Lecturer/Diocesan

1

1

OTHER

7

7

Invoices for the new AREIAC year will be available from September. We no longer ask you to fill in a membership form but, as in previous years, it does help if you let me know when you change jobs, addresses, areas and particularly emails so that we can keep our records up to date and make sure you receive all the mailings and information to which you are entitled. It goes without saying that if you know of colleagues who would benefit from membership, please encourage them to join or happy band!

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ASSOCIATION OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION INSPECTORS, ADVISERS AND CONSULTANTS !

SUMMER 2013

RE Quality Mark Have you the schools you work with applied for the REQM? This is an excellent opportunity to improve the challenge in RE lessons and support excellent pedagogy across the curriculum in all types of schools. Some SACREs are supporting schools financially with grants towards schools. See the website for the criteria and current awards: http://reqm.org/award-winners

The RE All Party Parliamentary Group The RE All Party Parliamentary Group met at the Houses of Parliament on Monday 24th June to listen to REQM award winners and RE ambassadors. MP Stephen Lloyd set up a new Early Day Motion on RE and Tolerance. Do keep your eye on this and advertise it/write to your MP. http://www.parliament.uk/edm/2013-14/272

Survey NATRE’s 2013 secondary school RE survey. Please ask your schools to complete this: http://www.retoday.org.uk/news/natres-2013-survey-is-launched

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ASSOCIATION OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION INSPECTORS, ADVISERS AND CONSULTANTS !

SUMMER 2013

Primary Teachers are under-prepared to teach RE The lack of time allocated to RE during initial teacher training courses leaves primary school teachers feeling under-prepared to teach the subject when they arrive in the classroom, according to a report published on June 21st by the National Association of Teachers of RE (NATRE). This, compounded by a lack of curriculum time in many schools and the high turnover of RE subject leaders, is leaving RE teaching in a perilous state in many primary schools. This new research was conducted by NATRE over a period of six weeks in the Spring Term 2013 via an online data gathering tool. Replies were received from 679 individual schools in England, of different types.

The views of all those who expressed an opinion indicated: 

58% of primary teachers polled say that, on entering the profession, they had little or no confidence to teach RE

49% of primary teachers said they had received less than 3 hours training to teach RE (of these, 24% said they received no training at all)

82% of schools allocate less than 60 minutes to RE per week

Teachers are most likely to hold the position of RE subject leader for less than two years (40.9% of post holders) and least likely to continue beyond 5 years (only 31.3% of post holders). This highlights the need for new subject leaders to have access to high quality continuing professional development and to reliable resources to support the leadership of the rest of the team delivering the subject. There is a heavy reliance on web-based resources (67% report regular access), leaving teachers vulnerable to the use of materials that may potentially be inaccurate, misleading or even contain offensive representations of religion or belief. As with other recent examples of reports on the state of RE in our schools, Michael Gove has remained silent.

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ASSOCIATION OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION INSPECTORS, ADVISERS AND CONSULTANTS !

SUMMER 2013

In response to the survey and its findings Ed Pawson, chair of NATRE, said: In the light of the shocking murder of Lee Rigby in broad daylight on a Woolwich street and the subsequent backlash from anti-Islamic activists, why are we not taking the need for good religious education more seriously? If our young people are to grow up to be well-informed about religions and other non-religious worldviews, this must begin early in their school life. The fact that the majority of newly trained primary school teachers feel under-prepared to teach about religion and beliefs raises serious questions: how are we to expect children to become active citizens, having an understanding of, and respect for the beliefs and values of others, if their teachers are lacking in confidence themselves?

This survey raises serious questions about the time allocation for RE on initial teacher training courses and about the subsequent need for all schools to offer substantial, meaningful professional development opportunities for serving teachers. You can read the full report here: http://religiouseducationcouncil.org.uk/media/file/ NATRE_Primary_RE_Survey_2013_1_2_fin.pdf John Keast, Chair of the RE Council, commented: As society becomes more religiously diverse, children need a safe space to learn about the diversity and commonality of religions and beliefs, and their impact on the world today. Today’s figures from the National Association of Teachers of RE show an uncomfortable truth - from reception class onwards children are losing out as many primary schools don’t think they have enough time for RE and when they do teachers are not being adequately supported.

Primary school teachers have told NATRE that they feel under-prepared to teach RE. RE is a challenging and robust subject, in primary schools it takes considerable skill and experience to give a fair, considered and understandable answer to the tricky questions that young children have about faith and beliefs. By continuing to ignore RE, the current government is threatening to brush issues of faith, belief and diversity under the carpet.

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ASSOCIATION OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION INSPECTORS, ADVISERS AND CONSULTANTS !

SUMMER 2013

Southwell and Nottingham Open Churches Project The Open Churches Project has been running in the diocese of Southwell and Nottingham for nearly 5 years. It is a project funded by The Heritage Lottery Fund and supported by Nottingham University as well as the diocese. The aim of the project is to bring together three strands of Tourism, Education and Heritage for all the Anglican churches across the diocese. Extensive research has been carried out on churches across the diocese with training for researchers being provided by Nottingham University. The entries can all be found at www.nottsopenchurches.org.uk The purpose of the tourism strand is to enable churches to open their doors to the public. ‘Open Churches’ weekends have been held as well as a number of trails being produced that mean people can visit the churches along the Great North Road or discover churches in the vast mining heritage areas of Nottinghamshire, and of course there is a trail in the steps of Robin Hood! The education strand has produced a number of free resources that have been made available to all community and church schools in the city and county. The purpose of the education resources is to open up church buildings to children and young people in schools so that they see them not just as historic buildings but as essential places of learning and faith today. The education resources available are: 

A primary pack for use mainly by churches to run activities when a local school visits.

A DVD ‘The History and the Life of Churches’ with a booklet containing classroom and worship ideas. The DVD glimpses the worshipping life of 2 different churches in the diocese.

A reflection pack for use in Collective Worship or RE. A sample pack is available but the resources are available on the website and are free to download. The pack takes aspects of a church building e.g clocks, doors etc and around those creates reflection opportunities.

An on-line secondary cross curricular resource using the churches on the open Churches website.

For copies of any of the resources or for more information please contact Jane Lewis jane.lewis@southwell.anglican.org

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ASSOCIATION OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION INSPECTORS, ADVISERS AND CONSULTANTS !

SUMMER 2013

Westhill Seminars http://www.retoday.org.uk/news/westhill-seminars-new-series A fifth series of NATRE/BJRE Westhill Seminars has been planned for teachers and researchers in RE, thanks to a generous grant from the Westhill Endowment Trust. This enables the series of residential 48-hour seminars to go ahead, each for 25 participants, at the cost of only £120 to delegates. The seminars are: Knowledge in RE: what, why and how should pupils know in RE? Date: 4 – 6 October 2013, London Speakers: Prof Michael Young; Dr Mark Chater; David Hampshire Acheivement in RE: what matters and can it be assessed? Date: 15 – 17 November 2013 Leicester Speakers: Prof Vivienne Baumfield; Dilwyn Hunt; Deborah Weston Effective Learning Methods for children’s spiritual development for 4 – 11s Date: 14 – 16 March 2014, Liverpool Speakers: Dr Rebecca Nye; Dr Anna Strhan; Lat Blaylock What do the Seminars offer? For teachers and researchers, this is a chance to deepen their engagement with RE by exploring recent research from within and beyond the classroom. Hearing from leading experts in the field and meeting with practitioners from around the country makes for stimulating and challenging discussions, with an emphasis on applying what has been heard.

REsilience Website The REsilience for England website has been completely rebuilt. All resources and documents are now openly available: http://resilience-england.recouncil.org.uk/ REsilience is a self evaluation, planning and training opportunity for teachers of RE. The programme is school based and can be tailored to individual needs. Its purpose is to help increase teachers’ confidence when addressing contentious issues, particularly where religious ideas are sometimes used to try to justify extremism and violence.

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ASSOCIATION OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION INSPECTORS, ADVISERS AND CONSULTANTS !

SUMMER 2013

A visit to Poland Last December I was lucky enough to be taken to Krakow in Poland for a few days by an old school friend who wanted to visit the Christmas market there. She also said she wanted to visit Auschwitz, so while she made all the other arrangements I booked our day to visit the camps. We decided to go to Auschwitz on the Sunday of our stay and the day dawned bright but minus 15 degrees. We were met by Małgorzata Lubowicka (Margaret) from Informacja Memoria Travel (info@memoria.travel.pl) outside our hotel and discovered we were the only people going on the tour that day. During the hour long journey she chatted to us in perfect English and showed us a couple of information films. On arrival she bought us a lovely hot lunch and introduced us to Tomasz who was our guide during our visit. He was an excellent guide explaining everything and showing us much more than I had seen on a previous visit. The temperature was now minus 17 and the snow was thick on the ground and it really was quite unimaginable how anyone managed to survive their incarceration there. The huts that we could go into at Birkenau with a trough down the middle for washing in were terrible. Particularly poignant was the memorial to all the dead which is written in every language on granite. After a hot cup of coffee Margaret collected us and took us back to Krakow, she told the driver to take us round the Jewish ghetto area and then announced that we were entitled to a visit to the Schindler factory as well a whole day out with a tour guide and driver and it only cost us £20 each. We were then taken back to our hotel by the driver and I said I would pass on her information to my colleagues as she is able to arrange school visits and for pupils to meet a survivor and listen to their story. Her number is +48 793 696 281. And she would love to hear from anyone who would like to take a tour with her. Penny Smith-Orr

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ASSOCIATION OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION INSPECTORS, ADVISERS AND CONSULTANTS !

SUMMER 2013

RE Route: An active Multimedia resource for RE at KS3 This excellent interactive CD provides teachers will all they will need to teach a unit of work on belief, based around the enquiry question, ‘What do people believe about life and the place of religion and belief in it?’ The resources on the CD are based around Christianity and Buddhism but provide ideas and stimuli for pupils enquiring into different religions and beliefs. The resources are suitable to use with students with all types of learning needs due to the thoughtful integration of ‘Writing with symbols’. The CD contains teachers’ notes, lesson activities, structured teaching and learning points. The scheme of learning included on the CD supports students, though games and other engaging learning opportunities, in exploring ideas of truth, promoting thinking skills and looking ‘beyond the surface’ at the practices, customs and words of Buddhists and Christians. Students explore such concepts as ‘Belief’, ‘Trust’, ‘God’, ‘Life after death’, ‘Religion’ and ‘Revelation’; and develop their own ideas on questions such as, ‘What do I believe/not believe about the world?’ There are illustrated resources for a scale of belief activity, visual place mats and excellent PowerPoints with hyperlinked visual images, allowing students to work in groups. The learning activities are engaging and thought-provoking. (available from Dave Francis Education Ltd, mayfly@blueyonder.co.uk) Fiona Moss

Gove, the archbishop and RE Education Secretary Michael Gove praised the standards and popularity of church schools and urged a continuing partnership with them last week. The Education Secretary took part in a seminar at Lambeth Palace on "Church of England: Education and our Future” hosted by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Most Revd Justin Welby on July 3rd Archbishop Justin said:

"The Church of England was at the beginning of national education of this country and continues to be crucial to its flourishing.”

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ASSOCIATION OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION INSPECTORS, ADVISERS AND CONSULTANTS !

SUMMER 2013

The seminar, attended by bishops, Diocesan Board of Education chairs and other church education leaders from across the country, marked the launch of a new document; "A Diocesan Board of Education for the Future". http://www.churchofengland.org/media/1794108/cofe%20dbe%20future%20-%20final %20version.pdf

Professor David Ford, Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge University, gave a presentation on the importance of RE in Church of England schools. In a statement released in advance of the seminar, Michael Gove said: “We would not have so many great state schools in this country without the Church of England. I know the Church does a wonderful job helping to raise educational standards and in providing a safe and loving environment for hundreds of thousands of children. However, there is much more we can do together. I want the Church to recover the spirit which infused its educational mission in Victorian times and support more new schools – especially academies and free schools – to bring educational excellence to the nation’s poorest children.” Michael Gove answered a number of questions, including questions about religious education. He observed that he had thought RE had a special status; that it was protected because it was a compulsory subject. However he now realised that "RE has suffered as a result of my belief ….and I don’t think I have done enough". Mr Gove said he wanted to work with not only the Church of England but also Roman Catholics and others to see what can be done to improve the quality of religious education and great RE teaching. Two aspects he highlighted: a) philosophy in the broadest sense and the ‘eternal questions’ and b) comparative religion and how that is taught in all schools. He suggested that the DfE and others should work together to exemplify good RE. It is expected that schools will be judged on 8 subjects in the future. Michael Gove confirmed that schools do not have to count just the named E Bacc subjects. Schools will be judged on the average point score of the best 8 GCSEs from a suite of subjects including English and Maths , 3 from the E Bacc and RE, (providing it is well taught) can be one of the eight alongside other subjects such as Design and Technology. The Bishop of Oxford, the Rt Revd John Pritchard, Chair of the Board of Education and National Society said: "I was delighted to hear the Secretary of State’s enthusiasm and admiration for church schools today. He reminded us that his own two children attend one of our schools and he applauded the Church for being prepared to work in places where others fear to tread. “At the same time he set us a challenge to raise our game. This echoes our own determination to make a real step change in the way we serve our communities, working to the highest standards. “I was also pleased to hear his public commitment to re-opening the conversation with the Churches on the future of RE and his recognition of its importance within the curriculum."

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ASSOCIATION OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION INSPECTORS, ADVISERS AND CONSULTANTS !

SUMMER 2013

A youth voice for Hampshire SACRE Patricia Hannam, County Inspector Adviser: Hampshire Inspection and Advisory Service. In September 2011 SACRE had its regular summer meeting in a secondary school in the north of the county and received a presentation from a group of year 10 students about their experience of RE. This presentation greatly impressed SACRE and the early seeds were sown for a Youth Voice group. Although this seemed a good idea, getting something up and running, clarifying precisely what this group was to be as well as the logistics to get going, were another and far more complex thing in a county with approaching 70 secondary schools. This initiative was enabled to get off the ground with the tireless support of two SACRE members of Group A. We met several times to discuss the vision of the group before bringing a proposal to a later meeting of SACRE establishing a case and agreeing proposals for a Youth Voice group. We were not looking to run a Youth Interfaith group; although it would be great if such a group existed, we were clear this was not the remit of SACRE to commission. It was also decided that it was not be possible to precisely replicate the make-up of SACRE itself; hence the group is not called a ‘Youth SACRE’. A Youth Voice was needed, enabling SACRE to hear young people’s experiences of the County Agreed Syllabus ‘Living Difference Revised 2011’ in practice in the classroom; it was convinced as part of SACRE’s monitoring process as well as at some point feeding into a future syllabus review. The matter of ensuring representation also presented us with some logistical questions. With so many schools in Hampshire it was clear this could never be a precisely representative group. Never the less we also wanted to get started, the view being that once something was begun it could be amended and refined; the important thing was to begin. The first meeting brought together three year 9 students in the summer of 2012 from each of 6 schools where RE was known to be going well. A further criterion looked for in the schools participating was an existing presence of Student Voice. Those attending the SACRE Youth Voice would have a mechanism to go back into school, to feed- back deliberations of the Youth Voice as well as enabling SACRE Youth Voice to hear from a wider group of young people. The meetings have been held in a wood panelled room in the County Council offices, where there is a huge map of Hampshire on the wall. The chairman of SACRE, Cllr. Anna McNair Scott has been with us for the meetings, also taking the opportunity to be with the teachers for part of the time in a separate room. SACRE Chairman and Vice Chair have found this helpful in deepening their understanding of the work of RE in our schools. We are about to have the fourth meeting. New schools have come on board; including a group of RE Council Young Ambassadors in a Hampshire School. To plan for succession of membership over time the original students, now in year 10, were joined at our last meeting by Year 9 students committed to stay with the Youth Voice into the summer of 2014. The group has now elected a Chair and Secretary, and is beginning to have a sense of sustainability and continuity. We have valued greatly the commitment of the teachers who have taken the time and effort to arrange for their students to be out of school and to bring them to the meetings. We have no funding for this venture and are entirely dependent on the good will of all concerned. We have ensured a representational balance of boys and girls as well as the faith, social and cultural mix of the county. Young people are giving good feedback about their RE. We are getting an emergent sense of what is going well and what would improve their experience. They highly value serious discussion classroom and extended enquiry, seeing the role of their teachers as nudging them to think carefully as well as bringing new things to them that they would not see themselves. They have spoken of the importance of visits and visitors and also hearing from young people in their own school communities who are of faith. A video presentation from students in one of the schools shown at the County Secondary RE Conference in October 2012 and other possible next step includes the Young People organising a Youth Conference as well as developing publicity for parents and students themselves who are at the point of choosing GCSE options. In addition to this we are seeking ways for the Youth Voice group to feed into other Youth Structures which exist in the county, as well as establishing a mechanism for the young people to feedback to SACRE themselves. All in all this has been a successful venture, and much valued by all.

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ASSOCIATION OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION INSPECTORS, ADVISERS AND CONSULTANTS !

SUMMER 2013

The Shap festivals calendar of world religions This superb resource is now available as an e-calendar (for loading onto your computer / tablet or VLE) or as a printed A2 wallchart. Used all over the UK and in a number of other countries this calendar is acknowledged as the most accurate. Covering 14 religion and belief systems and with space for adding your own occasions this is an invaluable tool for any place that needs to deal with multi-ethic and multi-religious groups. For a sample and for more details visit the shap website at www.shap.org The calendar is only £4 (single copy) the wallchart only £6 (single copy) with HUGE discounts for multiple copies.

An Educational Tour to The Holy Land 14th

22nd

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February 2015

This is an educational tour of multi faith and spiritual sites in the Holy Land run by Jane Chipperton, St. Albans Diocesan RE Adviser for

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teachers, headteachers and advisers from all phases of education. The Tour is organised by ITS, based in Manchester, with the Israeli office in Tel Aviv.

For more details see the AREIAC website. !

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ASSOCIATION OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION INSPECTORS, ADVISERS AND CONSULTANTS !

SUMMER 2013

AREIAC conference 2013 New Vistas in RE: Progression, Rigour and Challenge JURY’S INN LIVERPOOL - 1-2 July 2013 We had 45 delegates who came to a glorious conference in Liverpool in July. We are grateful for comments about future training. We will be adding presentations to the website in the near future and sending out a short questionnaire to update our records and support our September executive meeting. We look forward to seeing some of you at our Autumn conference and at the 2014 conference ... details to be announced in the near future.

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ASSOCIATION OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION INSPECTORS, ADVISERS AND CONSULTANTS !

SUMMER 2013

Book Reviews Why? Looking at God, evil and personal suffering Sharon Dirckx - Inter-Varsity Press ISBN: 978-1-84474-619-4 RRP: £8.99 There is much to like about this book. It tackles head on, with little ducking or diving, the problem of how to believe in a powerful, loving God while fully acknowledging that life for many people involves great pain and deep suffering. It does so in a language which is easily accessible. There are many authors that write about religion but they do so in a language which for the general reader means ploughing through material which is often painfully complex, frequently ambiguous and is just too much like hard work. This book is refreshingly clear and well written. However, the main thrust of the book relies upon a version of the Augustinian free-will argument. It is an argument which depends on the belief in some actual failure by our ancestors long ago to show obedience and this failure has had catastrophic consequences for all humankind ever since in that it caused evil to enter into the world. This evil cannot be removed quickly but thousands of years have to pass and a vicarious atonement has to take place. Even then although evil is defeated and the door to salvation is forced open, evil itself is not actually removed and humanity continues to suffer and still does today. If this failure of our ancestors is thought to be a figurative rather than a literal event, as many Christians certainly since the Enlightenment have been convinced it is, the basis of this whole argument is thrown into doubt. Saint Augustine could see some sense in his argument as he believed all of humanity had to pay the price for an actual act of wilful disobedience. If there was no actual disobedience but instead we have a profound myth which reveals the human condition the question remains – why is humanity in this condition? This book surprisingly doesn’t address this rather obvious problem. Nor does the book offer any explanation as to why so much evil, apparently unrelated to human activity, is inflicted upon non-human animals. Why, for example, as a result of human failing does the Ichneumon wasp exist? This wasp plants it’s young into the living bodies of caterpillars which then proceed without mercy to eat their way out? Darwin gives this example in ‘The Origin of Species’. Darwin could never get his head around the cruelty he saw in nature and this book would still not help him to do so. Nevertheless, the book does tenderly describe five interesting and genuine examples of people who talk about how their faith helped sustain them, as they attempted to cope with the suffering life inflicted on them. For example, the book recounts the story of Frances. Frances gave birth to Millie who was born with severe abnormality. The abnormality meant that Millie’s life was difficult and constantly in doubt. Eventually Millie died before reaching her first birthday but Francis still saw Millie as precious gift and a blessing. Will’s story is about a husband whose wife and son died in a car accident leaving him alone to bring up his surviving three year old daughter Eleanor. Will recalls the

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ASSOCIATION OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION INSPECTORS, ADVISERS AND CONSULTANTS !

SUMMER 2013

moment when only two years after the accident Eleanor asked, ‘So if God can do anything and he loves us a huge, huge, huge amount, then why did he let Mummy’s car hit the lorry? Why didn’t he just reach down and stop the accident happening?’ The questions children ask! Will talks about how prayer sustained him through the darkest days. Sharon Dirckx does not, like Dr Pangloss, assure us that all things are for the best, or claim that around the corner God’s good purposes will soon be revealed. She makes no pretence that there is an easy answer to the problem of evil. She does write from a clear Christian evangelical perspective nothing wrong with that. Nevertheless, one cannot help but feel that when it comes to the views of other faiths and beliefs her quality of understanding is less than generous. She does dedicate some 12 or 13 pages of her 150 page book to a discussion of Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic and atheistic perspectives on suffering. However, her account of what they claim lacks real scholarship and is woefully dismissive. She describes three moral theories which she attributes to atheism but two of which no thinking atheist would take seriously entertain. The third moral theory – utilitarianism, she suggests would not necessarily find the trafficking of slaves wrong. In doing so however, she makes no mention of the fact that leading utilitarian’s like Jeremy Bentham were in the vanguard of the opposition to slavery. In summary, atheism is dismissed not because its views about God are wrong but because, we are told, it is only able to come up with moral values which make life ‘unlivable’. Hinduism is similarly dismissed. Hinduism it is explained teaches that ‘evil is not real’ and is ‘illusory’ and so it is suggested that for Hindus there is ‘no difference between love and murder, generosity and theft, disease and health’. Knocking over strawman descriptions of the sincerely held beliefs of others in this way does little credit to Christian apologetics. There is much to like in this book but it does have real weaknesses which a more self-critical author could and should have avoided.

Religion for Atheists Alan de Botton - Pantheon Books ISBN: 978-1-84474-619-4 RRP: £8.99 This is very well worthwhile read for anyone interested in RE or in religion. Don’t be put off imagining it is another example of a militant atheist having a go at religion. Alain de Botton doesn’t write in a strident or a belligerent tone. He writes in a very attractive, accessible language which many bright thirteen year olds would understand. He pens a good line, he turns a good phrase. Of course as an atheist, he believes that there is no God, no afterlife, no transcendent other world. Nevertheless his central premise is that there is much in religion which is wise, important, valuable and profound. He thinks there is much that atheists, sceptics and the religiously indifferent can learn from religion. His view is that there are many ideas and practices which religions have encouraged for millennia. These ideas and practices he believes can and should with some modification be adopted and if they were they would be of enormous value to us that is to those who live in a Western secular ‘bowling alone’ society dominated by commercial interests, financial incentives and the ethics of greed and gain.

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ASSOCIATION OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION INSPECTORS, ADVISERS AND CONSULTANTS !

SUMMER 2013

He has some particularly valuable insights into ancient religious traditions which too often in RE lessons are not effectively explained resulting in young people failing to grasp an important aspect of their value or worth. For example, Alain de Botton hits a very important button in his discussion of Yom Kippur. He begins by observing that religions have been extraordinary clever at recognising that imperfection is in our nature. In our relationship with others we make mistakes. That being the case, de Botton observes Judaism has brilliantly provided every year a special day when we can seek out those who we have upset, frustrated, or angered and ask for forgiveness. The Day of Atonement has the immense advantage of making the idea of saying sorry look like it came from somewhere else. It is undertaken at the initiative of neither the perpetrator nor the victim. It is the day itself that gives us the opportunity to reopen the case and to say sorry and repair the damage that has been done. The book has many excellent insights into religious life and behaviour of this kind. Of course, de Botton’s focus is on the psychological and social benefits of having a Day of Atonement. He makes no mention of the theological backstory – that on this day the Book of Life is opened and God seals our verdict in that Book. In other words de Botton pours away what he regards as the supernatural bathwater but hangs onto psychological and social baby. Many people of faith will understandably regard this approach as one which misrepresents their faith and is reprehensible. But in many RE classrooms up and down the country there are large numbers of young people that can make no sense of the transcendent claims but they would see much that is sensible, wise and credible in how religion both acknowledges and responds to our psychological and social needs. Alain de Botton’s own conclusion is that there is something so valuably cathartic about the Day of Atonement that he suggests the secular world could institutionalise its own version. He has many other similar proposals which he sees as being lessons we can learn from what religions for centuries have done. For example, he suggests that there should be reminders of kindness on the walls of our buildings. That we should have role models, sort of ‘secular saints’, that reconnect us with virtues like courage, fidelity, generosity and patience. That we might have universities which illuminated students’ lives rather than merely sought academic goals. That we might have art galleries which are not arranged according to genre, or when the painting was created, but instead they might be organised to help us to consider how we should live, or how we might achieve self-knowledge. All this is well intentioned and on the whole very commendable. But some of his proposals are a good deal more dubious. Would people really show up at an ‘Agape Restaurant’, a sort of secular version of the Eucharist were people would dine with strangers and the conversation would be prompted by a Haggadah style guidebook? Would any, other than a small minority, really visit a ‘Temple of Reflection’ in order to contemplate in solitude? Who would pay for a branded chain of psychotherapists on our high streets that people could visit for ‘the care of their souls’? Whether secular institutions of the kind de Botton envisages will ever emerge seems unlikely to me but for the profoundly valuable and well expressed insights it provides into a number of religious rituals and practices which are not often recognised or discussed the book is a highly valuable read. Dilwyn Hunt

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ASSOCIATION OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION INSPECTORS, ADVISERS AND CONSULTANTS !

SUMMER 2013

BACK PAGE & DATES FOR YOUR DIARY And Finally ... • Read the APPG report which can be downloaded from the AREIAC website • There is still time to comment on the National Curriculum Consultation and other DfE Consultations - make your voice felt • Read the RE curriculum proposals on the REC website • Write to your MP re: the new NC - where is RE’s place in the new curriculum?

Contributors Sharon ARTLEY Jane CHIPPERTON Pat HANNAM Dilwyn HUNT Christine HOWARD

WEBSITE Are you keeping an eye on the website? The website is updated and changed most weeks so you should be visiting at least once a week. You could contribute a butterfly or a link to your agreed syllabus or an example of good practice. The more you contribute the better the site is for everyone and adds value for your membership fee. As a new experiment a digest of website items will be sent you about once a term.

Jane LEWIS Fiona MOSS Joy SCHMACK Penny SMITH-ORR

PLANNING AHEAD THE EFTRE CONFERENCE is in August 2013 and will be in Malmo in Sweden (just across from Copenhagen, Denmark). The conference theme is on “Religion and Relationships: Dealing with Difference”. A wonderful change to meet with colleagues from new places and to expand your horizons. To find out more and to book a place visit www.eftre.net

PRODUCTION All articles and information in this newsletter are copyright to AREIAC unless otherwise stated. Copies may be made for personal use by members of AREIAC. If you would like to submit an article for the next edition of the newsletter please contact Jane Chipperton <jchipperton@stalbans.anglican.org> Typesetting and newsletter design by Paul Hopkins <www.mmiweb.org.uk>

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AREIAC Newsletter Summer 2013  

This is the newsletter of the Association of RE Inspectors, Advisors and Consultants

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